Spanish prime minister blasts ’ABSURD’ plan for Catalonia to be run from BRUSSELS

Addressing reporters during his end-of-year press conference in Madrid, Mariano Rajoy roundly dismissed the idea that the region could be run from abroad as the Catalonia independence row deepens.

He said: “It is absurd to pretend to be the president of a region when you live abroad, and even more absurd to pretend that you are carrying out this function from abroad.”

Mr Rajoy called the vote in a desperate bid to put an end to Spain’s worst political crisis since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, and while some experts believe it could take months for a new Catalan government to be formed, Rajoy  says the new Catalan parliament should hold its first session on 17 January.

He said: “I hope that as soon as possible we will be able to have a Catalan government that is open to dialogue and able to relate to all Catalans, not just half of them.”

In a clear sign that the row between Rajoy and Puigdemont is long from being resolved, the prime minister reiterated a vote to select a new Catalan president must take place within 10 days of the new regional parliament convening.

Last week, Catalan separatist parties claimed victory in a divisive snap election, but it remains clear whether the pro-independence parties will be able to form a government.

In fact the unionist Citizens party (Ciudadanos) had the biggest share of the vote in the 21 December ballot.

Meanwhile, Catalonia’s disputed leader Puigdemont remains in Belgium having fled Spain shortly after declaring independence on October 27.

He left to avoid arrest over charges linked to rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

Other independence leaders, including Puigdemont’s former deputy Oriol Junqueras, have been imprisoned in Spain pending trial.

Speaking after the snap election, Puigdemont said: “I’m open to meeting Rajoy in Brussels or in a different country within the EU that would not be Spain.”

However, Rajoy has repeatedly ruled out holding talks with Puigdemont.